Last updated: 10:48 AM ET, Mon April 25 2016

Disney Springs and Epcot Expansions: A Look Behind the Wall

Destination & Tourism | Michael Schottey | April 25, 2016

Disney Springs and Epcot Expansions: A Look Behind the Wall

PHOTO: "Frozen" at Epcot. (photo courtesy of Walt Disney World) 

Even more magic is arriving at Disney Springs and Epcot, and TravelPulse was given a chance to go behind the walls to check in on construction at both new neighborhoods.

Disney Springs is the refreshed shopping and entertainment center adjacent to the four theme parks in Walt Disney World Resort. Its construction, architecture and design are all based on an intricate story of a fictitious natural spring that was found by early Floridian settlers who then built a nearby settlement, which turned into a bustling town and expanded over land and throughout time.

READ MORE: Disney Parks Show Stellar Success in Quarterly Reports

Town Center, the most recent expansion, is set to open in the summer of 2016 and will feature Spanish/Mediterranean Revival architecture, which is common in coastal Florida cities like St. Augustine. New retailers will be entering Town Center such as Anthropologie, LACOSTE, Under Armour, kate spade new york, Sephora and Oakley, along with new restaurants from top celebrity chefs Rick Bayless and Art Smith.

“Disney is known for telling stories,” said Dave Hoffman, the Disney Imagineer in charge of the new expansion. That rings true as much in Disney Springs as in Magic Kingdom or any of the other parks. In fact, that commitment to storytelling is exactly what sets Disney Springs apart from any run-of-the-mill mall or entertainment plaza.

Town Center itself carries a timeline and a story that, when Hoffman tells the tale, blends fact and fiction almost seamlessly. Quite a few of the assembled media sought clarification on whether a piece of design theory or architecture was being described as something earlier settlers would have done or something that Disney Imagineers were doing. To Disney Springs, that distinction hardly matters in the slightest.

The water itself is a deep blue, while the surrounding foliage of cypress and palm continually underscore the uniquely Floridian nature of the setting. The buildings stretch into the distance, their evolution in design marking the passage of time. Even within Town Center, 15 different shades of white were used to convey both different eras and aging.

The cynic might say that the opening of Town Center is just another expansion to just another mall, but behind those walls, it was clear another world was being built unlike anything shoppers, families and Disney guests have ever seen before.

Over in Epcot, it is less about building a new myth and more about joining two together.

In 1988, Epcot opened with a flourish and included two well-loved attractions — the Norway Pavilion as part of its World Showcase, and Maelstrom, an experience that combined a log water ride with an entertaining film. The Norway section of Epcot was centered on a mixture between quaint, middle class city life in Scandinavia and an appreciation for the culture and legend around traditional Norse tales.

Another myth that grew out of that same culture was Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen,” which was recently adapted into one of Disney’s biggest ever commercial successes — ”Frozen.” It is that story which is blending with existing Norwegian themes to create whole new experiences for families at Epcot.

Behind the Wall at the Norway Pavilion, Disney Imagineers are constructing the “Royal Sommerhus,” and adapting much of the pavilion from an urban setting into a rural countryside motif based on the vacation home of Anna and Elsa as a postscript to the movie.

The entire attraction will be refreshed with a “Frozen” theme that blends the fictional Arendelle with the Norwegian culture it was based off of. Old becomes new again, and the new Sommerhus was described as both “family friendly” and “cozy,” with plenty of artifacts and hidden gems that fans of the movie and guests young and old will appreciate.

Maelstrom itself will be renamed “Frozen Ever After” and will transport riders to fictional Arendelle Harbor as well as a few other locations based on the “Winter in Summer Celebration” as seen at the end of the movie when Queen Elsa has come to terms with her gifts and is using them for the enjoyment of her kingdom. The voice talent from the movie as well as original composers returned to give the refreshed attraction a uniquely “Frozen” feel.

READ MORE: Disney Unveils Details About Frozen Ever After and Soarin’ Rides

Whether it’s the old being made new again for a new generation in Epcot to appreciate Scandinavian culture or new stories being told around Disney Springs, the Imagineers at Disney always seem to have something for the whole family up their sleeve as the magic builds each and every year at Walt Disney World Resort. 

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